I can’t get too far into the blogging world without talking about my past. I was, and still am although not currently employed, a teacher. I was an elementary special education teacher in fact. Whereas that did not completely prepare me for motherhood (“mama, mama, mama” sounds very different than “teacher, teacher, teacher”), being a teacher has given me some valuable tools in the mothering department.
The world of public education is a controversial one. Take it from someone on the inside, there are good things and there are bad things about public education. But that discussion is for another day. Today I want to talk about the one of the most important nuggets of information I soaked up from my few years of teaching: children NEED to play.
It’s simple. In order to develop properly, children learn through play. This is something I feel like is part of my duty as a parent. Play starts in infancy. When infants are discovering their new world through the five senses, that is considered play. Play fosters creativity and knowledge-gathering. For toddlers, play starts becoming more obvious. So how do we play in this home?
Toys get a bad rap. Sure, an overabundance of anything is never good. But toys are very useful tools for play. We have a lot of toys here, and they all have their uses. My son has gone through many different phases. There was the ball phase of September 2015 where I bought him about 12 different balls and a laundry basket from the Dollar Tree. We spent hours putting all the balls in the basket and pushing it around just to take them back out of the basket. Before the balls there was the drum phase, and we’re still experiencing the fallout from this phase. His first toy phase was the car phase. For awhile we didn’t buy him anything unless it had four wheels. The joke was on us because during the car phase, anything could become a car. Currently we have entered into a tower building phase, so there are a lot of blocks under the Christmas tree this year. But there was a purpose to all these phases: play. When my son was stuck on cars, he was still crawling. Cars gave him the bodily knowledge and gross motor skills to move with the car, thus improving his crawling skills. Throwing balls and building towers also develop gross motor skills and spacial skills. Toys aren’t just clutter; they’re tools.
My son learned to show affection to his stuffed animals before he showed affection to me. To any mom, this is a hard pill to swallow. BUT the stuffed teddy bear that he first hugged and kissed served as a tool to develop social skills, and now he gives us kisses and hugs daily (thanks Teddy, but we are his favorites now). I know a particular three year old who plays with stuffed animals like they are her best friends. She probably has dozens of stuffed animals, but they all have names and traits. She’s three, and she can already describe details of real animals based on what she knows about her stuffed animals.
Toys aren’t the only tools of play: Art supplies. Books. Boxes. Tupperware (we’ve all been there).
Some of my favorite stores for play tools:
- Hobby Lobby
- Dollar Tree
- Lakeshore Learning Company or any teacher store
So Christmas is coming, and this is when it becomes apparent just how spoiled your kids are. But I challenge you to really put thought into what you buy your children. Think to yourself: “how can this toy/craft/object be a useful tool in fostering creative and imaginative play in my child?” If you do that, you may find that you are giving with your child’s development in mind. Every box that is wrapped for my son under our tree contains something that I know without a doubt he will like. I can picture how he will play with all of them and what specific skill he can develop with the use of each gift.
- Toddler music classes: stars are born at an early age.
- My loving and helpful husband: mornings off of mom-duty after a terribly rough week are a blessing
- Present wrapping party: how blessed am I to have so many gifts to wrap?